NIST Privacy Framework : Our Essential Data Protection Guide



HR Data Privacy and Compliance: How Secure is Your HR Data?

February 21, 2023

The recent Five Guys data breach has brought renewed focus to how organizations handle the personally identifiable information (PII) of not just their employees, but of prospective employees as well. In this recent cyberattack, criminals accessed a single file server, a sign that the hackers were likely looking for an easy target and found one.

In an attempt to prioritize profits over security, many organizations find themselves in a similarly precarious position. Weak protection of your sensitive data threat surface can not only leave organization data exposed, but also lead to reputational and financial ramifications. When potential compliance penalties are taken into account, these consequences are further amplified.

How secure is your organization’s HR data? Here’s what you need to know.

Why criminals target human resources data

Human resources processes such as hiring and the distribution of employee benefits represent a treasure trove of sensitive information for criminals. Each year, an increasing amount of this information is stored online. While this can provide great benefits to employers and employees both in the form of remote work opportunities, ease of data access, and other conveniences, these factors also increase the risk of a potentially devastating data breach.

Up front data discovery can help mitigate some of these risks. Robust discovery capabilities can allow organizations to better understand where data is held within the organization. From there, a complete picture of organizational data can be formed, allowing actionable steps to be taken to address risks.

HR compliance with increasing regulations

In addition to security threats, organizations must also be aware of increasing privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA).

Like its predecessor, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the CPR also protects employee records. In practice, this means that any organization with employees residing in California must adhere to strict rules regarding employees’ sensitive personal information and may be required to financially compensate employees in the event of damages such as those caused by a breach.

In many cases, employers weigh the risk of noncompliance, believing instead that data protection is either too difficult or too costly to undertake. However, the penalties for not reporting a breach are severe. Given that the frequency of data breaches is only increasing, the need to properly protect sensitive customer information should now be thought of as a cost of doing business rather than an optional measure reserved for larger organizations with extensive capital expenditures.

How to protect sensitive HR data

Protecting sensitive HR data properly can save your organization a significant amount of long-term damage. Further, smaller sensitive data footprints can lead to increased consumer trust, making the argument for proactive solutions even stronger.  Here’s what you need to know about protecting your threat surface in regards to HR data.

1. Understand the data in your possession

Sensitive data at rest is data at risk. To protect your data, you must first know what you possess in the cloud, on endpoints, and in every other location under your control. Only with powerful sensitive data discovery can your organization find sensitive data wherever it lives.

2. Properly classify information once found

Data discovery and classification go hand in hand when it comes to data loss prevention (DLP). A proper data classification system requires tags and labels that can be used by both humans and machines to accurately identify data.

By automating this process, you can ensure classification stays accurate and up-to-date with the ever-changing needs of your organization. This data-centric approach to security also makes classification much more scalable as data security requirements increase. As needs change, relevant classifications can be adapted to meet new guidelines with greater efficiency and less manual input.

3. Understand your requirements for HR compliance

Privacy bills are becoming increasingly common, especially at the state level. Additionally, many policies like Data Subject Access Requests (DSARs) may need to be handled by human resources personnel, requiring team members to quickly and accurately verify identifying information. Only software capable of handling these requirements will allow your organization to remain compliant.

Regulations are trending towards increasingly stricter requirements in the coming years. By adapting to trends now, your organization can stay flexible enough to adapt to a constantly changing legal environment. Additionally, it is unlikely that these changes will slow any time soon, further necessitating meaningful action now.

4. Be prepared in the event of a successful attack

Data breaches are becoming more of a “when, not if” event. As a result, your team needs to have an incident response plan in place. In addition to data monitoring, you need breach detection tools that can highlight the extent of a breach.

You will also need to understand breach notification laws specific to your state. While some state laws are more stringent than others, all 50 states have reporting requirements on the books.

From there, you will need to enact policies that prevent future security events. These may include better data remediation procedures, implementation of a Zero Trust framework, and other protocols to better protect your organization against threats.

Find and protect sensitive data with help from Spirion

The best way to protect sensitive data held by your human resources department is to take a proactive security stance with Spirion’s Sensitive Data Platform (SDP). Spirion SDP offers best-in-class data protection through industry-leading data discovery, accurate classification, and sensitive data remediation. With automated workflow controls and the Spirion SDV³ Sensitive Data Risk Dashboard, you’ll have a comprehensive view of your security picture at your fingertips.

Ready to see more? Schedule a demo today to see the Spirion SDP in action.